Thursday, June 22, 2017

Black Hills of South Dakota - A Must See Visit! One of the Best Vacation Destinations in the U.S.A.

Yes, you can do the Black Hills of Dakota and the surrounding attractions in a long weekend out of Chicago. Fly to Rapid City, South Dakota via a short stopover in Minneapolis and you will find yourself in one of the most beautiful and downright of American places. The Black Hills of South Dakota offer a variety of things to do and you can do them all in a long weekend. I left Chicago on a Thursday morning and arrived in Rapid City, South Dakota with a short one hour shuttle trip to Deadwood, South Dakota.

Deadwood became famous in the 19th century for a series of homegrown and recruited gunslingers. It was a down and dirty town in the Old West and it attracted the likes of one-time lawman, Wild Bill Hickock. Hickock was only 39 years old at the time of his death, but he has been immortalized by American western folklore. He was killed at the #10 saloon by Jack McCall and there is a staging of the shooting in the town of Deadwood. (Spoiler and the one bad thing about Deadwood is coming up in the next couple of sentences) The town of Deadwood today encompasses about one mile of shops, hotels, restaurants and just about all of them are in possession of slot machines. This was a major turnoff. It's overkill and that's an understatement. Everywhere (almost everywhere) you go, you are inundated by slot machines. The tourist town you wanted to visit has become a slot machine zone. Once you zone out of that scene you can attempt to enjoy the town. The Springhill Marriott which is about two blocks away form the start of the Deadwood city heart is a lovely property that is quite top of the line. The property is clean and it offers a nicely outfitted workout center and an excellent breakfast. Again, it's clean and I mean clean.

                                                                  Wild Bill Hickock

There is a tour of Deadwood that you can take and it takes you around town and up to Mount Moriah Cemetery. The cemetery has the graves of Wild Bill Hickock and his fellow gunslinger, Calamity Jane. If you know much about old Hollywood movies you will note that Calamity Jane looked nothing like Doris Day who portrayed Calamity in the 1953 version of her life (Hollywoodized 1950's version of her life). Keep in mind, this would be loosely based and I do mean loosely based on the real life details of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock.

                                                                      Calamity Jane

The second day is a full day in the area. Mount Rushmore is a monumental and majestic site and it is easily one of the must see, bucket list items on any travellers list of things to do and places to encounter. If it isn't on your list it should be.  Mount Rushmore is a spectacular location and must be viewed during the daylight and during the darkened part of the day, so plan your day around seeing this mighty site both times during the day. You will find yourself taking photos in various locations around the National Park. Walk the Presidential Trail around the famed mountain and you will even get in a bit of your daily exercise. A short film on the creation is part of the offerings at the National Park, along with a superb gift shop (well, that's a given).  Veterans will appreciate a tribute to their service to the nation. The United States has been and still remains one of the most significant nations in the history of the world. It's history is varied and its charms are plentiful.  

                                             Mount Rushmore During the Daylight Hours

Go to the unfinished monument dedicated to Crazy Horse and you will note this - it will forever remain unfinished. If they haven't found the funds to pay for this yet - clearly, they never will. Crazy Horse was a famed member of the Sioux tribe and he became near immortal during the Little Big Horn battle with the United States Army led by General George Armstrong Custer. Since Crazy Horse would never allow himself to be photographed one could argue this memorial goes against his very core. Having said that, many love this unfinished tribute to the man who hailed from this part of South Dakota.

                                                                Crazy Horse Memorial

Custer State Park is a spectacular opportunity to see the beauty of the topography of this part of South Dakota. A wide variety of wildlife sightings await your journey. You can see Pronghorn, White Tail Deer, Bison, Wild Turkeys, Wild Burros, Elk and a slew of Prairie Dogs. Driving through the Black Hills will prove to be a fruitful decision to visit the area.            

The Badlands are stunning, but this is a full day of scenic driving. You can do everything on a tour or not, so go with what makes you comfortable and safe. It is hard to believe the Badlands sit next to the Black Hills. God is certainly creative!

                                                           Mount Rushmore at Night

Enjoy South Dakota!

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2017

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